Well, it’s official…autumn is finally here. The kids are back at school. The days are getting shorter. The mornings are crisp and so too are the leaves falling from the trees. But just before old man winter drops the first flakes of snow on us, there’s time to enjoy the last fruits of the autumn harvest.
Back in Ireland, ripe apples and pears are hanging from the trees in our organic kitchen garden just waiting to be picked. Here in the Rockies, our newly planted espalier apple trees are, sadly, bare. Thankfully the local farmers market provides plenty of bounty to enjoy and, this year, preserve.
Preserving, also called “canning”, is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. My mother preserved her own strawberry jam and tomato sauce when I was growing up and the romance of “making my own” has always stayed with me. With that in mind, last week I bought a 32-pound box of Autumn Rose peaches at our local market for the crazy-good price of $20.00. With the help of my new friend, Akemi, we made fourteen jars of sliced peaches and twenty jars of peach butter, a yummy peach spread that despite its name is not made with butter.
We started our project at about 10am and by time we picked up our children at the bus stop at 3.45pm we were finished. It was so easy! I’d be leading you on if I didn’t mention we scanned blogs and websites to make sure we were on the right path…no botulism for us, please. Our favourites turned out to be: smittenkitchen.com, foodinjars.com and simplycanning.com.
The recipe for our peach butter came from smittenkitchen.com and follows below. We didn’t change a thing and I doubt you will either. Its delicious spread on toasted Irish soda bread but its uses don’t stop there. It would be equally good on your morning yogurt, it could be used as a glaze for chicken or pork, it would make a lovely filling for crepes and a sweet dollop on ice cream or plain cheese cake would be nice too. As for me, I’ll keep a few jars for the family and the share the bounty of 2011’s autumn harvest with friends and neighbours in the weeks to come.
(Yield: 4 cups)
4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) peaches
1 cup (237 ml) water
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon
1. Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. The peels should slide right off.
2. Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters. Place peach pieces and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. Puree in a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender until smooth (though any texture you prefer is fine).
3. Return the peaches to the large pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end, as it thickens up and the fruit risks scorching on the bottom of the pot.
4. To test for doneness: drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface of the fruit in the pot; when the ribbon holds its shape before dissolving into the pot, it is done.
5. To can your peach butter: First, sterilize your jars, either by boiling them in a large, deep pot of water (which should cover the jars completely) for 10 minutes or wash them in hot soapy water, rinsing and drying the parts well and then place the jars only in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then, divide your hot piping hot peach butter between your jars, leaving a little room at the top. Wipe the rims clean with a dry towel and cover the jars with their lids. Submerge the jars in a large, deep pot of boiling water for 10 minutes (if you are canning at high altitude you need to extend that time of cooking to suit your area), either in a removable basket or using tongs to dip and remove them. Let cool completely on towels, a process that can take overnight. If canned properly, the peach butter should last indefinitely at room temperature.